What are thoracic fractures and dislocations? | Dr. Andrew Cash, Las Vegas, Nevada

By Brooke Strickland and Dr. Andrew Cash

A thoracic fracture or dislocation is one that occurs in the middle of the back.  These types of injuries are usually the result of high energy accidents, such as falling from high up, motor vehicle accidents, or high-impact sports accidents, or violence, such as a gunshot.  These types of injuries can also be caused by osteoporosis in seniors, as the bones in the spine are often weakened from age and sometimes with tumors along the vertebrae of the spine.

If a thoracic fracture is present, the main symptom will be moderate to severe back pain that is worsened by moving.  There will also likely be numbness, tingling, and/or weakness involved, and in more severe cases, bladder and bowel function can be affected.  If a traumatic injury has caused the fracture, the patient may be unable to communicate pain levels or may even be unconscious.  This is when doctors and medical personnel are very careful in examining a patient that they believe may have a spinal injury, as the patient needs to be immobilized and stable before moving. Once a trauma team is present in the hospital, a more thorough evaluation will be made, likely through an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan, and a head-to-toe examination of all areas of the pelvis, spine, and limbs.  The doctor will also evaluate the patient’s neurological status to determine if the patient has been affected in this way.

For many patients that have a thoracic fracture, nonsurgical treatment with a brace and decreased physical activity will help the spine heal.  For others that have more serious injury, surgery is required in order to stabilize the spine and reduce the risk for more significant injury.  In both surgical and non-surgical options, rehabilitation will need to occur.  The goal of rehabilitation is to help reduce pain, increase mobility, and return to regular activities as soon as possible.

Contact Dr. Cash at Desert Institute of Spine Care for an appointment at: http://www.disclv.com.

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